We've all heard of the honeymoon period -- that time of sweet relief and excitement just after the wedding when many folks are thrilled just to be newlyweds. But what is the term for the two-year, 11-month mark?
This point in a marriage (or, more specifically, two years, 11 months and eight days after having tied the knot) is reportedly when a couple's happiness reaches its peak. According to a recent survey, "Just under three years emerged as the point when couples feel completely comfortable with each other's bad habits and have a plan for their future."
Is this really the rosiest time for the newly married? We asked eight wives and husbands -- some just approaching the mark, some years (or decades) past it -- to reflect upon their own spousal-happiness levels. Here's what we learned ...Krissy, 29, married two years and two months
"Apparently we have a few more months to go before we reach our 'happiest' -- though I find it hard to believe that anything can top the birth of our son. It wasn't just meeting our baby for the first time and all the joy that brought us, but watching my husband Dave become a dad that made me fall in love with him all over again.
As a woman, I think you are somewhat prepared for the instantaneous love you feel for your child, though you can't imagine it to the fullest capacity until you meet him/her for the first time you're somewhat prepared during pregnancy. I truly believe that you become a mom the minute you get pregnant -- thinking constantly about your child, protecting him/her, changing your lifestyle, etc. But a man truly doesn't become a dad until those first couple of days ... and that is just amazing to watch.
Our experience was slightly different than normal: Holden was born three weeks early and ended up having to spend six days in the neo-natal intensive care unit. He was born via c-section, and because I was fairly out of it during recovery, Dave spent every moment by his side. I remember the first time I went down there to see him -- Dave brought me down in a wheelchair, and when we got there, he sat and explained to me everything he learned that day: how to comfort Holden, how to change his diaper, how to feed him, everything he talked to him about, etc. It was just incredible. My Dave -- who is generally a very traditional male -- not a crier, not full of crazy emotion, etc. -- was bitten HARD by the Holden bug. He even started to tear up when he told me that the nurses said Holden likely wouldn't come home with us upon my discharge. So long story short, bringing Holden into the world together was the most incredible thing we've ever done -- and those first few days of watching Dave become a dad were definitely the happiest I've ever been with my TWO boys."
Erin, 30, married two years and four months
"I remember on our second anniversary talking about how crazy it seemed that it had been two years already, and while two years isn't a lot, it feels like a big accomplishment. As much as I would like to say that right now is the happiest point in our marriage, having finally bought our first home, right now is actually one of the more stressful and emotional times we've shared. I think once we come upon three years we will be adjusted to our new home and our new lifestyle and be able to take a deep breath and say 'wow, look at where we are.' So I'm really looking forward to that!"
Emily, 30, married two years and eight months
"I've been married for two years and eight months, so I guess we're approaching optimum happiness. Our happiness has definitely changed over time as we have gone from being a dating couple to family members. On good days, it feels like a slumber party. On bad days, it feels like a business meeting has interrupted my slumber party. When I got an HDTV, I made a vow to never get used to how amazing it looks, and I try to do this with my marriage as well. At some point you may get used to the crispness and high definition, but you always need to remind yourself how lucky you are to have it."
Stephen, 30, married for six years
"This statistic seems crazy to me, and indicative of the relationships I talked about before: People who get this high from infatuation, and aren't cognizant of the fact that they're high, and so aren't able to see past the high. And then, perhaps (on average) after about two years and 11 months, things start to fall apart. My happiness as a human being fluctuates, sure. But my happiness with my marriage is high and holding steady. I love my wife, she loves me, and we take good care of each other."
Natalie, 37, married for six years
"I am as happy in my relationship with Frank as I've ever been. That being said, we've experienced a lot in our 10 years together (six married) and with each challenge we overcome, joy we experience, adventure we take, I'm more secure in our relationship . . . and THAT is what makes me happy! Building a life of experiences and memories, and knowing that there's truth in 'for better or worse' - he's by my side and has my back. It's one thing to say that on the altar, but when you actually experience that . . . BLISS! I think people confuse 'happy' with 'new.'"
Liz, 29, married for six years (after dating for three-and-a-half)
"Definitely happiest in the first two years, partially due to being younger, with less responsibility and more leisure time, less taking for granted, fewer old-news stories, and more protectiveness of each other."
Tom, 30, married seven years
"While I do believe that happiness is up to you and not necessarily tied to external factors (rich who are miserable, poor who are content, etc), I would say that I can easily see why the three-year mark is the beginning of the end for 'happiness in a marriage.' I think time will magnify the true nature of a couple's compatibility. If you're in a loveless or incompatible marriage, by the three year mark, you've passed all lovey- dovey actions that would offset the crapfest smoldering underneath. By that time you know that it won't work out, or isn't worth it, and in bad relationships I could easily see why they are unhappy as the couple has run out of bon bons to feed each other. Around this point you also feel some decreased level of responsibility for the personal happiness of the other person, and that lack of effort will also lead to a decreased level of perceived happiness.
For loving and compatible couples, the 3 year mark means the same thing, although in these cases they have actual caring to support that lack of "fire" found in the first three years. For these couples while the "fire" might be gone, you've had three years to really get to know the other person and love them for who they are. The "fun" might not be there as much, but "function" of the relationship can only get better. For me personally, I'm just as happy as I was when I met my wife (8 years ago), as the day I married her (4 years ago in August), and as happy as I was last night. That's just me though."
Sheila, 55, married for almost 35 years
"To be honest, the happiest (i.e. the most secure) time for me has been the last seven to eight years. It wasn't like I was miserable before, but the constant stress of having younger kids at home plus working full-time made the first 25 years a challenge."
Kate Emswiler is a freelance writer based out of New York. She's had her two cats for five years and definitely thinks year three was when things became easiest and most comfortable.
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